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Grad student with building models and blueprints

Building sustainability into architecture

Matthew Ferguson, Architecture master's student

Growing up in Ontario’s Thousand Islands region gave Matthew Ferguson a closer connection to nature than most Torontonians. With its need for ferry transportation and energy solutions in isolated areas, it’s no wonder the environment cultivated the master of architecture student’s passion for sustainability.

In 2017, Ferguson was part of the team behind LaneZero, a sustainable urban laneway house concept that won the grand prize at the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2017 Race to Zero student design competition.

“I learned from many incredibly talented students outside of my program, including engineers and building scientists that I am now proud to call friends,” said Ferguson.

Later, he played a key role in the EcoStudio project, an interdisciplinary team of students, professors and industry professionals united in creating sustainable homes. Together, they developed ZeroHouse, a townhouse that generates as much energy as it consumes. ZeroHouse was showcased at EDIT, external link (Expo for Design, Innovation and Technology) as a model of sustainable architecture.

“It was a fantastic learning experience for students to see how decisions get made, how to compromise without losing sight of key ideals, and how to drive a project forward in the face of the kinds of logistical and financial setbacks that occur with all projects,” said Cheryl Atkinson, the architecture faculty lead for EcoStudio and Ferguson’s thesis supervisor.

For his thesis, Ferguson is continuing to explore sustainable design, but this time in the context of a purely natural environment. He is designing a landscape park in a marsh on Howe Island, located near Kingston. The project demonstrates how architecture can magnify a person’s experience of nature.

Central to Ferguson’s growth as an architect has been Ryerson’s emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration. “Having the Building Science program in the same building as Architecture made it easy to walk downstairs with my laptop to get feedback on models from Building Science students. Interfacing with different people in this way was great preparation for how the industry works in the real world.”

Through his work, Ferguson aims to show that construction can be environmentally sensitive without compromising design integrity. “Sustainability should be a foundation for all buildings, which can then become places of beauty.”

 

Photo credit: Ian Patterson

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